This is what 29 looks like.29

At least the grainy, Samsung Nook Tablet, just got off work with a book in my lap kind of version of it anyway.  Just 2 days after my 29th birthday I’m sitting here on my couch in my newly moved into still unpacked apartment simply blown away that I have reached this point in my life. Twenty. Nine. My bed is behind my couch in a studio style setup. It’s relatively unmade, that may or may-not be my red bra strewn across the top in the background, and I’m pretty sure there’s a half empty Kombucha bottle somewhere over there too. There’s dishes in my sink, most likely expired greens in my fridge, my dog won’t stop marking the leg of this couch, and my 25 year old brother is living in the only bedroom in our place. Which means my neighbors at some point will most likely see my cookie monster panties within the next 3 months. There’s a big bay window in my living room/bedroom and I’m terrible at closing the blinds at night. Also I like to sing Sara Bareilles in my underwear when I’m home alone.

*sigh*

My first thoughts as the clock struck midnight on February 13th (my actual birthday) were: I am nowhere near where I thought I’d be.

And with that, plus an Asian Pear Martini, began my 29th year in this life cycle.

In my head by this age I was supposed to have accomplished so much more.  I’m supposed to have book deal by now. I’m supposed to be a published author by now. By now I should have at least my own condo, or a house. At 29 I was supposed to have my degree in Public Relations and have a big-shot job. The list can go on and on of all the things I was supposed to have and have accomplished by now.

With this train of thought I’ve got to thinking. Why do I NEED to be at any particular place in my life by any particular point? What is it that drives this need to only feel fulfilled if I’m meeting this certain criteria that I set at some point in my past?

I’ve mulled this over in these last 48 hours and have only one thought that keeps coming to mind.

Insert Socrates.  (At least Good Reads tells me it’s Socrates who said it, so I’m just going to go with that even though sometimes believe it or not the internet is wrong *GASP!*)

But according to my saved stockpile of favorite quotes on Good Reads, Socrates said it best:

socrates
What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.

Well damn. Thank you kind sir. If this didn’t hit me right in my 29 year old feels.

Let’s pause for a moment and explain why I keep referencing my actual age.  DUDE! It’s because I’m TWENTYFREAKINGNINE and this is the last year in my 20s! Or  like I used to think the last year for me “get it all wrong” and not have to worry about being a “grown-up.”

But is it really? Let’s refer back to my friend Socrates.

I’ve perceived the message behind this quote to mean “Shut the hell up about where you’re supposed to be and instead focus on where you are.” Paraphrasing of course, but I think if ‘ole Soc had been around now it would have sounded more like that.

Seriously though! Why are we so caught up in these stories we create in our minds?! (Thanks to another old friend of mind for that little gem of a term. Not quite Socrates status but he had his moments.) We forget to look at where we are now.  At how far we’ve come, at all we have right in front us.  Aren’t those things equally, if not more so, important?

The answer is YES! THEY ARE!

Goals and aspirations are important.  They help us to never settle for less than our best selves.  BUT in the same respect it’s just as important to RECOGNIZE the growth on our journey to those dreams.  APPRECIATE the unplanned detours that arise for the ACHIEVEMENTS they create and the CHARACTER they build.

In addition, sometimes on our journeys we find that through all our left turns, side trips, and re-routing the destination might change.  And that’s okay too. Better than okay. It means you dug deeper, got the dirt under your nails with all your hard work.  You’ve learned about your truest self, her (or his) desires and (here’s a big one!) CAPABILITIES.

Because friends, YES you are capable of so much more than you imagined. So much more than a nameless 9-5 PR job at a company you don’t feel invested in.  So much more than an over-sized house with a picket fence you’re too busy working to enjoy. So much more than a faceless name on a list of 4,000 one-time published writers who’s book is only print-on-demand.

You deserve connection and adventure and mistakes and coziness and love. And sometimes that looks entirely different than what we initially thought.

The amount of personal growth I’ve experienced in the last year is indescribable.  For a writer, that’s pretty damned hard to do.  But somehow in the last 365 (now 367) days I can honestly tell you I’ve woken up a different person almost every day.  And I continue to do so.

My mentor, Sheryl, (also not Socrates but always a go to for the best advice) once said to me that in order to be a great leader I had to meet my employees where they are.  I couldn’t just expect them to hit the goals I set for them, or meet my expectations without first understanding where they were in that moment.  I would have to meet them in the now and work with them to bring out their best versions of themselves.  THEN and only then would they be capable of reaching their greatest potential.

I see now that the same applies for myself.  I have to meet Me right here in the now. Experience the life I am living, not the one I thought I should be.  Most importantly I need to lead myself to greatness by working today, in this moment.

This applies to anyone at any age.  You do not need to be at any specific place at any specific time.  You do not need to prove anything to anyone, not even yourself.  Your only job in this life is to live the best one you can. To love yourself and others fiercely.

So with my inner light glowing, and this glass of Chardonnay, I dedicate my 29th year to Socrates (or someone like him) and his reminder to live in the now. Cherish the moments, and build a future that is always in the present.